Start the journey towards self-acceptance and self-love.
I’ve long written about the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem . Self-confidence can be derived from being successful in one area of life, whereas self-esteem is how highly we regard ourselves as a person. It’s how much we like, value, and accept ourselves.
Despite the fact that many people attempt to pursue high self-esteem through ‘doing’ – earning more money, being more successful or altering their bodies through plastic surgery or dieting – becoming more confident in one area doesn’t necessarily mean your self-esteem improves at the same rate. This is because self-esteem is an internal way of measuring your self-worth and sense of belonging in the world – if you’re trying to ‘improve’ yourself in order to feel acceptable, the ‘improvement’ might just drive home the idea that you were unacceptable in the first place.
So, how do you raise your self-esteem?
1.Do things from a goal of self-care and self-love
On first view, ‘doing things’ might seem to counteract what I said above about the fact that doing things to improve your self-confidence would not necessarily improve your self-esteem. However, ‘doing things’ for the right reason is very different than doing things for the wrong reason when it comes to boosting self-esteem. When you start from a point of self-care and self-love, you are essentially saying to yourself, “I love and value myself enough to exercise/ earn a comfortable living/ have a fulfilling career/ attain a healthy weight”. This is vastly different than saying, “Nobody will love me unless I’m thin”, or, “I need to prove to everyone how good I am by earning as much money as possible”. Before you make a decision about what you want to achieve, ask yourself this question:
“Am I doing this because I love myself and want to take care of myself”?
“Am I doing this because I want to make myself more lovable and acceptable?”
2.Explore the roots of low self-esteem
Low self-esteem doesn’t come out of the blue. At some point, you learned that you weren’t quite good enough just as you are. Often, this is a message which is internalized during childhood and may be the result of parental abuse, emotional neglect, and critical parenting. School experiences can cause low self-esteem. Children can be cruel to anyone who stands out in some way – for instance by being socially or physically different than the ‘norm’ – and anyone who has suffered bullying while they were growing up may question their right to belonging in the world. Identifying where your low self-esteem originated is helpful in demonstrating to you that there is nothing inherently ‘wrong’ with you – you simply were taught, through the lens of other people, that you weren’t acceptable as a person in your own right.
If you have low self-esteem, it’s possible that you have attracted other people into your life who reinforce your opinions about yourself. When we are raised in a certain way, we sometimes recreate those relationships (whether or not we are conscious of doing so). For instance, if you were raised by a highly critical father, you may attract a similar romantic partner later in life. When you’ve learned to be a certain way, you bring that self into your other relationships.
Ask yourself whether your current relationships reinforce your low self-esteem through, for instance, criticism, emotional or physical abuse, emotional game playing, name calling, not accepting the way you look or your choices in life – or any other actions which are designed to make you feel bad about yourself. There are many supportive people out there who will accept you just as you are and it is important to foster these types of relationships in contrast to those which have conditions attached to the amount of love and attention you receive within them.
Self-esteem can fluctuate through life and, by implementing the three steps above, you can make a start on improving your self-esteem and making a start on the journey towards self-love and self-acceptance.
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